RAG Meetings

Mid-monthly RAG meeting 24/8/2018

Lee and Nick talked about 6 objects to observe in night sky and various telescope finder devices including Lee’s homemade version of a device similar to a Telrad – a beefy version with 50mm binocular lens in it, 1/10 wave mirror and in-built heater! He is suggesting a workshop to make our own versions of the same but improved over the commercial original- sign me up!

After Lee and NIck’s talk, I gave a brief demonstration of the DIY Spectroscope – thankfully it worked producing instant spectra for the lights in the room!

Andy

Nick Cox (left) and Lee Bale (right) give their talk at RAG:

Rhys tries out Lee’s homemade version of  Telrad finder:

Butterflies in Lichfield

On Friday evening after RAG, members of the astronomy group were invited to walk down to the Moth Group’s moth-observing area further in the forestry centre. It’s fantastic when scientific groups can share information and experiences. They showed us many beautiful moths but they did not have any examples of this intimate pair which Damian, Ean Ean and I saw on Saturday evening on a walk in Lichfield (the day after RAG) – these two are Six Spotted Burnet moths and were visible in broad daylight – I had not known that was possible until the moth folks told us that some moths were active in the day, and indeed Six-Spotted Burnets are one such species.

Andy

The following information comes from https://butterfly-conservation.org/1034-1540/six-spot-burnet.html

Six-Spotted Burnet Moths. Scientific name: Zygaena filipendulae

June – August. All over Britain, mainly coastal in Scotland. Medium-sized black moth with six red, occasionally yellow, spots. Frequents flowery grassland, woodland rides and sandhills.

The only British burnet moth with six red spots on each forewing, although care must be taken with identification, as in some cases the outermost spots can be fused. Rarely the red colour is replaced by yellow.

Flies with a usually slow buzzing flight during sunshine and is attracted to a range of flowers including thistles, knapweeds and scabious.

Size and Family

  • Family – Burnets and Foresters (Zygaenids)
  • Medium Sized

Conservation status

  • UK BAP: Not listed
  • Common

Particular Caterpillar Food Plants

Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil, but also occasionally on Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

Distribution

  • Countries – England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland
  • The commonest and most widely distributed burnet moth in the UK. Well distributed in England, Wales and Ireland, becoming more coastal in Scotland and found on the Outer Hebrides. Also found on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Habitat

Frequents flowery grasslands, including downland, cliff-edges, woodland rides, roadside verges and sand-dunes

Successful detection of meteor shower by radio scatter at Damian’s house Streethay from Graves’ radar

After Peter Hill’s brilliant talk at the last RAG meeting, we were both motivated to pull out Andy’s radio meteor kit and give it a try. In the past Andy has had real problems getting it working at his house and we don’t know why. First step was to try it elsewhere – Damian volunteered his house for the task today.

A useful day of testing Andy’s portable meteor detecting equipment…

Picture contributions from Andy, Damian and Julie (+ annotations!)

Setting up at Damian’s house…

Dancing around the Maypole!

Getting there…

Done…. and ready to go!

Andy bought along a selection of aerials – in the end he chose the simplest and cheapest off the shelf one rather than the hand-made and carefully cut (length to frequency by Bill from Lichfield) versions below….

Our chairman with his radio equipment at Damian’s house (below):

Peter used his FunCube Dongle for his detections. To simplify this initial trial, Andy bought along for this test his Yaesu FT817 portable radio. We used Peter’s settings file and a cheap off the shelf aerial and cable and a car battery to power everything.

The aerial poles are an ex-military carbon fibre Clansman kit – 5.4m high! Andy initially bought these several years ago to use with his Radio Jove Jupiter radio-observing radio and aerials but they are also very useful for meteor detection!

Clansman aerial mast kit:

Immediate success with the military aerial at full height !

Screenshots from Spectrum Lab showing meteors in Damian’s garden:

Success was at the Graves’ frequency 143.049 MHz (Upper side band):

We then tried reducing the height of the aerial to roughly the same height as the aerial on the roof of my shed (2.4m) where my current aerial is located.

We found we were still able to detect aerials roughly every minute or so. Their peak magnitude did not seem to be as large as when the aerial was twice as high………so reduced height = less meteors and reduced magnitude of detection.

Next step was to take the set-up which we had just proved worked back to Andy’s house to see if it worked in his garden to test the theory that he lives in a radio black spot which explains his difficulties over so many years.

The following are screenshots from Spectrum Lab in Andy’s garden showing meteors:

Next steps for testing Andy’s meteor observing problems in his garden:

1. Test the same kit as above with different heights of aerial.

2. Erect aerial above and record meteors over 24 hours.

3. Try recording meteors with lower height aerial in Andy’s garden during meteor shower – no meteor shower major or minor today in standard lists.

4. Use aerial on top of shed with Yaesu radio to see whether meteors are detected.

5. If yes to 4 then try changing radio to FunCube Dongle to see if still works.

6. Try kit as above in Andy’s and Damian’s garden but this time using FunCube Dongle rather than Yaesu radio.

For future reference, we came up with this list of equipment we need to take with us on future radio meteor observing sessions, out of the home location (such as outreach sessions at the forestry centre):

  • Yaesu FT-817 radio – make sure power cable, audio cable in the box.
  • Laptop with spectrum lab and settings files.
  • Computer hood or box so can see screen in sun
  • Portable table and chairs or stools
  • Car battery
  • Inverter
  • Multiple plug adapter so can plus both laptop and radio into the inverter (at least two plugs)
  • 12V power supply for radio – alternatively 12V battery
  • Mallet to hammer in pegs for aerial
  • The C-Clamp on the aerial is larger than the Clansman aerial poles so need piece of wood to go in between C-Clamp and aerial.
  • Clansman aerial poles kit in green bag – make sure 6 poles, 2 x round discs for attaching the guide ropes, 3 x metal strips wrapped with guide ropes x2 per strip, 5 x pegs.
  • Extension cable for aerial (may not be needed depending on aerial used).
  • Aerial – today we used off the shelf Yagi for UHF – cheap and cheerful but effective! If this one is used then extension cable not required as it has long cable with it.

We then returned to Andy’s house to try the same set-up at his… plus a beer!

Damian and Andy

Review of RAG meeting 25/5/2018

Those members of the group not away for the bank holiday weekend turned up on a rainy evening to hear excellent talks by two of our own members: Peter Hill talked about radio meteor detection and the second talk was on meeting a UK astronomer by Paul Bertenshaw. This represents a new format to the evenings with separate before and after coffee speakers and went down well with everyone there. In the past a number of our members have used the opportunity to meet astronomers when they have given talks or hosted dinners in the UK and it was fantastic to hear Paul’s excitement as he talked about the experience and see His photos with the great man! I think I will book for the next one….

We have also made a decision to incorporate a members social time between 19:30 and 20:00 for the next three months, although everyone needs to ensure they arrive by 20:00 as the forestry centre entry barrier goes down at this time.

Andy

Various Astro, Space and Sci-Fi related pieces of interest… oh, and Neil Armstrong!

Not posted recently, so here are a selection of pics I’ve been collecting that I thought would make an interesting contribution…

So to start, an update on my Lego Saturn V Christmas present. Andy has been helping ad-hoc as well!

Completing the second stage…

Very cleverly designed…

Once finished it should stand a metre tall! There is a ‘link’ back to the Saturn V / moon, later on…

Next, a picture of our magnolia in full bloom… “Stellata” (meaning star), taken at 6.55pm on Wednesday 18th April…

Later on, a beautiful crescent moon and the ‘Evening Star’, Venus – Julie and I were out for an evening walk. Taken on an iPhone 6 at 8.38pm.

Then another, a tad later at two minutes past 9… nearly home…

Next is a picture of the moon taken through a 13mm Ethos eyepiece attached to my TEC140-ED APO refractor – just hand held with the iPhone held up to the eyepiece. This was from Friday 20th April, whilst waiting for Andy to turn up (his observing report can be found somewhere on here!)

Oh, and a picture of me setting up the gear (didn’t know Jules was hanging out of the bedroom window taking this…), I think I’m in the throws of setting up a WiFi connection from the Nexus device (that reads the mount’s encoders) to the iPad Air 2 (that runs Sky Safari Pro 5).

Here is a process of a friend’s Solargraph we made for them ready for the summer 2017 Solstice – it stayed in place ’til the winter Solstice and they passed it back for processing in early April…

Raw scan (that Andy kindly did for me).

And the processed version! We’re not sure what the bright squiggly line is!

Next we jump to the RAG meeting from Friday 27th April – featuring guest speaker Paul Money (part 2 talk about the Voyager probes and their journey to the gas giants and beyond)… captured in ‘full flow’!

Next a picture from another evening walk, a lovely sunset with the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church (in the town centre)… Monday 30th April at 8.18pm.

Julie is a French and German teacher… she told me on this walk that tonight was “Walpurgis Nacht”, the night when animals can talk, see the link below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpurgis_Night

On the 1st May, in the old calendar, it was also the start of summer… you wouldn’t know it though with the weather this last week… we’ve even had to put the central heating back on in the evenings!

…and another from Wednesday at 9.02pm… the Cathedral from Stowe Pool.

…and later still, at 9.30, Venus shining brightly…

Now some of you may be aware that my post was made redundant at MandM back in February. Well I’m now back in full time work as the photographer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers (Richard is on telly quite a bit if the name rings a bell), based in Fradley. So far I’ve photographed medals, coins, furniture, art, ‘military’, toys, silverware and jewellery.

But we’ve also had some other interesting ‘lots’ come in which are being prepared for future sales…

How about this…

A full sized Dalek and yes you can sit inside and move him along!!! He needs a bit of TLC. This is a little Photoshop work I’ve done on him for our social media feeds (the Andromeda Galaxy background is my own from some years ago!)

We also have going under the hammer this retro playsuit based on the original ‘TV Serial’.. I wonder if some of our older members remember wanting or even having this ! 😀

Lastly, on a far more serious note… take a look at this letter which came in to be valued and put up for sale!

Note the early NASA logo, date (only a few days since getting back from the moon) and of course the signature!

Hope you enjoyed this rather varied blog entry!

Damian

 

 

 

 

RAG Christmas Quiz 8/12/2017

If you missed it, then you missed a real treat! In spite of the ice and snow on the roads, a virtually full house turned out to experience Damian’s fantastic creation of a world where astrology and astronomy were both equally valid, and where fun and frolics were the order of the day!….But we couldn’t get away with it that easily. It was also his most difficult, and most astronomically-related quiz to date. However, don’t be fooled – as always, knowing your astronomy only got you so far – general knowledge around history, geography, archeology, popular music and culture were at least if not more important – and such knowledge led the (self-admitted non-astronomy experts) Jonathon and Dominic’s team to victory! It was a brilliant evening and we all really enjoyed ourselves. Thanks again, Damian!

Andy